Facing a Heat team playing without Shaq, Dwade, Antoine Walker, James Posey and coach Pat Riley, the Clippers won easily tonight, 110 to 95. The Heat only had 10 players (and only 19 kidneys) in uniform. (The Clippers had 11 and 22 respectively.) For the most part, the Heat players fell into one of two categories: really old, but surprisingly still in the league (Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning) or really young, and surprisingly in the league at all (Robert Hite, Chris Quinn, Earl Barron, Dorel Wright). Somehow, the Clippers managed to make Jason Kapono look like an all-star in the first half, when he scored 17 points.
There's not much to take away from this game. The Clippers dominated from the second quarter on, as they should have. It is certainly encouraging seeing the Clippers continue to shoot well. Actually, that's an understatement. The Clippers shot over 60% in this game, including 19 for 26 from Kaman and Brand (48 points combined). And center and power forward happened to be the one place where Miami featured legitimate NBA players (Alonzo and Udonis Haslem). Other than Corey Maggette who was 7 for 19 and Korolev who missed his only shot in 52 rare first half seconds, the worst Clipper shooter was Daniel Ewing, who was 5 for 8! Maggette made up for his relatively poor shooting by leading the team in rebounding with 11, giving him his fifth double double of the season.
The other interesting thing about this game was the distribution of minutes. I can't really explain it. With Cat Mobley resting a hyper-extended elbow, MDSr tried yet another starting lineup of Kaman, Brand, Maggette, Ross and Livingston (which, as it happens, would be my starting 5 if I were the head coach). I understand that either Ross or Maggette had to start at the 2, but why did coach feel compelled to sit Tim Thomas, who had started 6 straight? Is the matchup with Dorel Wright at the 3 really that big a deal? In fact, Thomas played only 16 minutes, while Ross played 42 and Maggette a season high 40. I liked it - I'd like to see it continue - but I don't get it.
Everyone played well, but Daniel Ewing should certainly be noted. He made open jumpers, he played good defense, and he had 5 assists to only 1 turnover in 31 minutes. A very solid outing for the Dukie, who has been looking more and more comfortable as he continues to back up Livingston while Cassell tries to get healthy.
And Kaman, who looked truly helpless against Alonzo in their first meeting this year, came out and had a terrific game. The first time he touched the ball, he went right to the middle and sank a soft leftie jump hook. The next time, it was the right. Then he took a pass from Shaun and finished sweetly with his left again. By the end of the first period, he was 5 for 5 and on his way to his second 20 point game of the season, on 9 for 12 shooting. He made a couple of shots that surprised me, but mostly, it just seems like the shots that weren't falling for him earlier in the season, are falling for him now. And yes, he does actually look better to me with the traditional ball (© Michael Smith). It seems to leave his hand better, particularly with the left.
So the Clippers now have 3 road wins, against the Grizzlies sans Gasol, the Rockets sans TMac and Yao, and the Heat sans Shaq and DWade (and Riley and Walker and Posey). Assuming Agent Zero doesn't get hurt in practice tomorrow, they'll get a chance to get a real road win when they face the Wizards on Friday.